A Conversation with Cathy Abramson

A Conversation with Cathy Abramson
“Dreams of the Underground”
On display in the Margaret W. & Joseph L. Fisher Art Gallery through December 23rd, 2019
Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center

Can you describe your artistic process?

I start by taking photos, lots of photos. I try to carry my camera or iPhone with me and will stop and take a picture if something strikes me as noteworthy, a building in the golden hour, a shadow, people gathered at a public event, a reflection in a window. Often the images won’t make a full composition but have an interesting texture of an element  that could be part of a painting. I spend a lot of time thinking about the images I’ve gathered and something will call out to me and then I’ll start composing an image in Photoshop. Frequently this image becomes a small painted color study and if the potential is there for a larger painting, I’ll go ahead and will begin sketching the image in paint on a toned canvas or panel. First I work up a value study and when I’m pleased with the result I add color. I often use squeegees and rollers in addition to my paint brushes to get a desired effect.

When did you know that you were in an artist?

I always loved to draw.  I never got good grades in art courses but it was just something I loved doing. I needed a job and took illustration and graphic design courses and became an illustrator and art director even though my first degree was in Political Science. One of my first jobs was as an art director at a political magazine and I drew a pretty good Ronald Reagan. One letter to the editor commented on a cartoon I did for the magazine. It said that one of my cartoons was offensive...I knew I was off and running!

When I retired as an art director,  I was able to take a 3 year course of master painting techniques at the Compass Atelier in Rockville, get a studio and paint as much as I could. I can now spend a good amount of my time painting.

 What are your artistic inspirations? Are there particular artists or art movements that are an inspiration to you?

I’m a representational painter and like the structure of painting something recognizable.  I’ve always loved Edward Hopper and my work is often compared to his although I think my paintings are not as lonely and the characters are not as isolated. I’ve always been interested in narrative and looked to illustrators for inspiration. I’ve spent many hours looking at the art of Ben Shahn, Edward Sorel, Ralph Steadman, David Levine, Leonard Baskin and copying their work. As far as painters are concerned, aside from Hopper, there are any number of contemporary painters that I admire: Burton Silverman, Alyssa Monks, Steven Assael, Lucien Freud, any of the California figurative painters.

More recently I’ve been following Alex Kanevsky and David Kassan.  Often the last show or artist I’ve seen becomes my new favorite.

Why does the urban environment inspire you over other environments?

I love the activity, interplay of light and shadow, and the sheer mass of architectural forms. Everything is constantly changing in the urban environment and there’s an urgency to really look and see what’s going on. There’s also a need to examine the underlying politics and social interactions and decode what is apparent and what lies just below the surface.

What is it that you hope to capture of your experience in Washington DC and other locations?

Many of my past paintings in the district had to do with neighborhoods and people in transition. Many neighborhoods including the Kennedy Street corridor are being overhauled and there are stories to record and examine. Now I’m interested in the Brutalist buildings in Washington, DC. There’s a gritty beauty in parking garages or the many government buildings that are wall-to-wall slabs of concrete. Believe it or not, even the FBI building has a certain charm. I like to see how people interact with these sterile buildings and think of a narrative for those settings and people.

You have a painting in the exhibition entitled “Cathedral”. What about the subject matter inspired you to call the painting after a type of church?

Cathedral

“Cathedral” is an underpass at the beginning of Magazine Street in New Orleans, near the National WWII Museum. I’ve done a number of paintings at this location and there’s the potential for many more. I loved how the light filtered in between the massive highway supports, much like the light filtering through stained glass windows and falling on the columns in a cathedral.

The texture of the concrete and metal are similar to textures found in cathedrals. The parked cars add a human scale to the setting much like the congregants who are dwarfed by the soaring ceilings in a cathedral. The final note is that cars and technology are worshiped in America.

Tell us about the people in your paintings? For example the women that is the subject of “ In her Shadow” or “ Dream of the Underground”

In Her Shadow The woman in “In Her Shadow” is Ms. Vee, Veronica Cooper. She is a force of nature and began her career as one of the first female pullman porters, She has worked as an accountant, seamstress and artist. She owned and operated Culture Coffee on Kennedy Street and opened Culture Coffee Too in Fort Totten a couple of years ago. She is always stylish from her brightly colored glasses to her gold lame pants.

Dreams of the Underground

I don’t know much about Sara, the model and dancer in “Dreams of the Underground.” Sara Lavan is the Founder, Executive and Co-Artistic Director of local motion project and was a model the day of a photo shoot and fundraiser that I attended  I loved the way she hugged herself and seemed to be wrapped in her own world and dreams. And, what’s not to love about her pink hair.

 

What is that you would like the viewer to take away from their experience of seeing this exhibition?

I’d like people to come away with a new appreciation for our urban environment, it’s stories and it’s people. Living in a city is a moment to moment experience and I try to isolate a moment, capture it, and move on. These fleeting moments often resonate with the viewer’s own life and narratives. I love to hear the stories the viewers invent on the spot!

Is there any advice that you would give students who have made the decision to pursue art?

It’s very simple, if you love it, do it. Making a living as an artist can be a stretch but you can find a little time here and there for your art. Scale your projects to the time you have available so you don’t get frustrated. If art is important to you make it a priority and expect others to respect your time. Try to schedule time for art just as you schedule time for work, family, friends and all your other interests. Making art can be a joyful, sensual experience and  making good art is probably one of the most difficult things you can attempt. The sense of accomplishment you get when you produce something you are proud of is unbeatable.

What can we expect from  your work in the future?

I have so many projects and paintings in mind. My next few paintings will be portraits, some personal and some of the women I met while teaching some art classes at a local women’s shelter. I struggle with portraiture and want to get much better. After that it’s back to paintings of DC. I took a number of photos at last year’s Funk Parade and can’t wait to paint from those amazing, colorful images.

 

 

 

August 8th 6-8PM Artist Talk with Sunhee Kim Jung

You are invited to join us on Thursday evening August 8th from 6 to 8PM for an engaging and enlightening talk with the Artist Sunhee Kim Jung. Feel free to come out early to avoid traffic. Jung will discuss the two series: The Sanctuary Series in the Passage Gallery  and the Camouflage series in the large and spacious Forum Gallery.

This is Sunhee’s 12th solo exhibition of her artistic career which spans three decades. In both of the series, Sunhee uses figures over whelmed by landscapes to address sacrifice, loss and alienation. The paintings while visually accessible and intriguing also lead us to ask personal questions about our views of the subject matter.

Please come to the artist talk to meet the artist and experience her solo exhibition. Please visit Sunhee’s About the Artist page to learn more about her and this exhibit.

March 16th, 2019 2-4PM: Artist Receptions for Alonzo Davis and Angela White

We are very pleased to announce our early spring exhibitions and invite you to the opening receptions.  We will have two new solo exhibitions opening on March 9th, 2019,  Saturday afternoon 2-4PM.

NOMAD: The Art of Alonzo Davis
Forum Gallery and the Margaret W. & Joseph L.  Fisher Art Gallery
We pleased to present work from two of Alonzo Davis’s recent series, the Navigation Series and the Migrant Series. The Navigation Series is inspired by Alonzo’s long-time fascination with Micronesian navigation stick charts. Once used by the Marshall Islanders of Micronesia, the charts, studies of Pacific swell patterns and island locations, helped mariners navigate the waters in and around the region by canoe. The “Migrant Series” is a body of works that express our need for national and world concern of peoples having to leave their homeland because of inhumane conditions.The work in the series are approximately 14″w x 16″h x 5″d; each containing encaustic boats made of bamboo on a mixed media collage painting, with encaustic wax on board with burned and painted bamboo.

To learn more about Alonzo’s work, visit his About the Artist page.

COMING TO LIGHT: The Encaustics of Angela White
Passage Gallery
Angela White is a fine artist inspired by physical, spiritual and emotional memories that create the visual depth and density of her work. Abstracts and seascapes compose the majority of her compositions. Natural and sensual materials such as oils and encaustic paint allow the blending of edges to create visual depth. By superimposing layers of media, the varied themes and processes of her work are exposed.

To learn more about Angela, please visit her About the Artist Page.

January 19th, 2019 2-4PM Opening for Brian Dailey, Azadeh Saheraien and Reem Akked Dardari

The Schlesinger Forum galleries is pleased to present the two major projects by Brian Dailey in collaboration with the Photography and Media Department of Northern Virginia Community College. The first opening event for this exhibition is this Saturday at the Forum Galleries.

American in Color and WORDS by Brian Dailey

America in Color by Brian Dailey

Over the course of a two-year period, Brian Dailey traveled across the country with the objective of capturing individual portraits of the uncelebrated American electorate. He organized impromptu photo shoots with more than 1,200 citizens, including those with no interest in politics or voting. In the portraits, each individual expresses their personal identity casually in dress and pose, while their political identity is a chosen backdrop: blue for Democrat, red for Republican, grey for Independent, green for the Green Party and orange for those who do not vote. The resulting body of work, “America in Color” challenges our perceptions of the many components and individuals that shape the American political process.

Form and Formation by Azadeh Sahraeian

Azadeh Sahraeian

As an architect and artist I like to create living things; not biologically alive but things that have a perceptible degree of life. Observing natural and man-made patterns and complex systems enable me to define my method in art. Hence, instead of replicating finished forms that are already settled, whether as images in the mind or as objects in the world I’d rather follow the order of these natural and artificial structures in order to generate my artworks based on their properties and characteristics.

Syriana: Paintings by Reem Akkad Dardari

Reem Akkad Dardari

Syriana  is a series of very personal statements of intellectual and emotional reflections on the humanitarian catastrophe we now lightly call, the Syrian conflict. They vary in color, from the blue of the Mediterranean, swallowing thousands of unwanted refugees, to the grey of flattened cement and the rubble of deformed “skylines”. Unidentified figures of children frozen by fear, with a man weeping in silence.

Tangling Shadows by Joan Belmar

Thinking, Tangling Shadows by Pablo Neruda

Thinking, tangling shadows in the deep solitude.
You are far away too, oh farther than anyone.
Thinking, freeing birds, dissolving images,
burying lamps.

Belfry of fogs, how far away, up there!
Stifling laments, milling shadowy hopes,
taciturn miller, night falls on you face downward, far from the city.

Your presence is foreign, as strange to me as a thing.
I think, I explore great tracts of my life before you.
My life before anyone, my harsh life.
The shout facing the sea, among the rocks,
running free, mad, in the sea-spray.
The sad rage, the shout, the solitude of the sea.
Headlong, violent, stretched towards the sky.

You, woman, what were you there, what ray, what vane
of that immense fan? You were as far as you are now.
Fire in the forest! Burn in blue crosses.
Burn, burn, flame up, sparkle in trees of light.

It collapses, crackling. Fire. Fire.
And my soul dances, seared with curls of fire.
Who calls? What silence peopled with echoes?
Hour of nostalgia, hour of happiness, hour of solitude.
Hour that is mine from among them all!
Megaphone in which the wind passes singing.
Such a passion of weeping tied to my body.

Shaking of all the roots,
attack of all the waves!
My soul wandered, happy, sad, unending.

Thinking, burying lamps in the deep solitude.

Who are you, who are you?

Our current artium installation by Joan Belmar is inspired by the poem, Thinking Tangling Shadows by Pablo Neruda.

To learn more about Joan Belmar visit his about the artist page, follow him on Instagram at @JoanBelmar and visit his website at joanbelmar.com

The recording of Thinking, Tangling Shadows is voiced by Stephen Shetler.

August 4th, 2018 Opening Receptions 2-4PM – Wu, Holt, Button and Belmar

Summer Art Receptions for three new exhibitions will be help Saturday August 4th, 2018 2-4PM. In the Fisher Gallery, there is a two person exhibition, A Sociology in Layers: Selected Works by Jenny the Wu and Michael Patrick Holt. The Passage Gallery has a solo exhibition of collages and paintings by Linda Button titled Communion, An Exhibit of Egos and Ids. In the atrium, Tangling Shadows, A site specific installation, Tangling Shadows by Joan Belmar opens and will be on exhibit throughout the fall.

LInda Button

Jenny the Wu and Michael Patrick Holt

Joan Belmar, Site Specific Installation “Tangling Shadows”

The address for the Schlesinger Arts Center is 4915 East Campus Drive, Alexandria Va, 22311 on the Northern Virginia Community College Alexandria Campus. Parking is available.

Undercurrents: Monotypes by Adjoa J. Burrowes

Behind the Eight Ball
Behind the Eight Ball

Starting March 9, 2018, the Passage Gallery of the Schlesinger Center will be exhibiting a new printmaking exhibition, Undercurrents: Monotypes by Adjoa J. Burrowes. These recent abstract monotypes explore the angst and uncertainty of contemporary times. As the artists states: The immediacy of monotypes appeal to me in its urgency and uniqueness. No two are alike. My large predominately black textured works, with spots of color, were printed from reclaimed plastic wrapping and recall aerial photos of burnt out cities and landscapes, the result of fire storms or urban violence.

The artist reception is Saturday, March 24, 2018 4-6PM.

To learn more about Adjoa, visit her About the Artist page.

Hope is an Echo

“Hope is an Echo” is part of the Passages: Monotypes by Clare Winslow exhibition in the Passage Gallery.

Clare is frequently inspired by the work of poets.

Hope is an Echo by Carl Sandburg is one of her inspirations.

Hope is an Echo

Hope is a tattered flag and a dream of time.

Hope is a heartspun word, the rainbow, the shadblow in white

The evening star inviolable over the coal mines,

The shimmer of northern lights across a bitter winter night,

The blue hills beyond the smoke of the steel works,

The birds who go on singing to their mates in peace, war, peace,

The ten-cent crocus bulb blooming in a used-car salesroom,

The horseshoe over the door, the luckpiece in the pocket,

The kiss and the comforting laugh and resolve—

Hope is an echo, hope ties itself yonder, yonder.

The spring grass showing itself where least expected,

The rolling fluff of white clouds on a changeable sky,

The broadcast of strings from Japan, bells from Moscow,

Of the voice of the prime minister of Sweden carried

Across the sea in behalf of a world family of nations

And children singing chorals of the Christ child

And Bach being broadcast from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

And tall skyscrapers practically empty of tenants

And the hands of strong men groping for handholds

And the Salvation Army singing God loves us….

  • Carl Sandburg

Small Domestic Miracles: Works by Emily R. Shepardson

Emily Shepardson Monotype - Crossing into AutumnEmily R. Shepardson will be having a solo exhibition entitled Small Domestic Miracles in the Fisher Gallery of prints and paintings starting January 20, 2018 and running through March 5, 2018. There will be a artist reception on Saturday afternoon, February 10, 2018 2-4PM.

Emily is a printmaker and painter who describes her process has collage-like. For a print she will begin with a series of different plates and stencils layers and combined until the final image is achieved.

She describes small domestic miracles as household magic like soaking white napkins in bleach to remove food stains, or perfectly gluing a broken cup back together again. It could also be catching sight of a tangle of birds circling over the house or having a crow follow me to work. In my art, it’s a glimpse of a swan in the creek, or the shadow touch of a hand on your back.

You can follow Emily on Instagram at @shepardsonemily

Memory, Mostly Self by Wayson R. Jones

The Fisher Art Gallery at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center will display a unique series of acrylic portrait paintings by artist Wayson R. Jones. The show, Memory, Mostly Self, will be on display in the gallery from June 9 to July 30 with an opening reception scheduled for 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, July 8. Jones has used old snapshots of himself as a child to influence previous work. For Memory, Mostly Self, he wanted to combine the energy of his childhood image with archetypal images from popular magazines Ebony and Jet.

Cool Hat, powdered graphite, acrylic medium, gesso on paper, 14” x 17″